Unvaccinated People Are No Longer Banned Here, Effective Immediately
Local officials say "we’re ready to take this step in our recovery” as COVID cases drop.
In the span of two months, the Omicron variant caused COVID-19 cases in the U.S. to rise to their highest levels of the entire pandemic. But just as quickly as it arrived, infections have begun to decline rapidly, with the national daily new case average dropping 65 percent to 102,590 over the past two weeks as of Feb. 20, according to data from The New York Times. As a result, some places have begun to roll back specific safety measures, including some in place since before even the Delta surge was spreading. Now, another major city has announced that it will be dropping a significant piece of its pandemic-era public health protocol.
In a statement released on Feb. 18, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced that the city would be ending its proof-of-vaccination requirements that have been in place since December, effective immediately. The removal of the mandate now means that businesses such as restaurants, bars, gyms, and indoor entertainment venues no longer have to ensure that patrons have received their shots before granting them entry.
After seeing cases rise sharply last fall at the hands of the Delta variant and spike once again with the arrival of Omicron, the city has seen major progress in getting the virus under control. Local health data as of Feb. 18 showed that the city had a 4 percent community positive rate, 90.7 percent occupancy rate of adult ICU beds, and a seven-day average of adult hospitalizations related to COVID-19 of 195.9 per day. According to the city's B Together campaign, all three metrics fall below the thresholds set for removing certain safety measures, The Boston Globe reports.
"The public health data shows that we're ready to take this step in our recovery," Wu said in a press release announcing the change. "This news highlights how much progress we've made in our fight against COVID-19 thanks to vaccines & boosters — which have always been our most effective weapon against the pandemic. It's a win for every Bostonian who's done their part to keep our communities safe, and we have to keep going. I want to thank all of our small businesses who have been working to keep our communities healthy through challenging times."
The move came just over a month after Wu announced that the vaccine mandate in Boston would be expanded to include anyone 12 years of age or older, which went into effect on Feb. 15. But as recently as Feb. 8, Wu had publicly speculated that the city could see the mandate dropped if the health data thresholds were met.
However, not all restrictions in Boston are being removed quite yet. The city's mask mandate will remain in effect, requiring that masks be worn in all indoor public spaces. Wu said that city health officials would be reviewing the order soon to determine its status in the future, Boston.com reports.
Boston isn't the only city to begin rolling back vaccine mandates for businesses. On Feb. 10, Minnesota's Twin Cities Mayors Melvin Carter and Jacob Frey made a joint statement announcing that the cities would be ending their vaccine requirement for restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, the Star Tribune reported. Now, people in Minneapolis and St. Paul no longer need to show proof of vaccination to enter these indoor spaces.
And it's not just vaccine mandates ending. At least 11 states have already lifted one or more city mask requirements since Feb. 7, ABC News reported. The policy changes began with New Jersey Gov. Phillip D. Murphy announcing on that day that the state's schools would no longer require students and school employees to wear masks, per The New York Times—spurring a snowball effect for other officials to call off mandates. As well as Massachusetts, the other states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington, per ABC.